The Maldivian government has dropped price controls of private health clinics months after clinics raised them illegally, according to President Mohamed Nasheed’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair.
The decision, recommended by the Cabinet, was a reaction to the rising costs of medical materials and consumables.
Earlier, the Health Ministry had approved a general consultation fee of Rf 75-100 (US$5-6), with Rf 300 (US$20) as the highest fee chargeable for a specialist consultation. So-called ‘super-specialists’ could charge more than Rf 300.
On May 12, 2011, Minivan News reported that private health clinics had raised consultation charges without government permission. The cost change was allegedly an effort to balance the devaluation of the dollar exchange rate following the government’s decision in May to implement a managed float of the rufiya.
“The private sector complained that the government had too much control over their services, and after the costs rose they weren’t able to fully operate,” Zuhair told Minivan News.
Zuhair said the government expects private clinic rates to remain moderate, and said most services will be eligible under the government’s Madhana health insurance program. The government also requires changes in medical service charges to be presented to the Ministry of Health one month before taking effect.
“The Minister of Health already has a wonderful system of monitoring in place, and whenever necessary the Ministry will propose a policy change,” said Zuhair. He added that the situation was not expected to be problematic. “The quality of treatment is equal at private clinics and public hospitals,” he claimed. “Now, people don’t have much to complain about.”
A senior informed source in the Maldives health sector told Minivan News that on average, private clinics were a Maldivian’s first choice for treatment. Although the medical treatment might be the same, the atmosphere and degree of personal supervision was often better at a clinic than at a hospital, the source said.
“Cost recovery is not the objective at most hospitals, which are subsidised,” the source explained, revealing that many patient bills at state-run hospitals only cover 25-35 percent of the total service.
“When people go to a hospital to get treated, they are not usually aware of what the hospital is able to provide,” said the source. “The treatment is fine, but hospitals need to increase the quality of care because people expect it, in spite of the low fees.”
The source said he believed that the competition between private clinics would keep costs affordable: “I think it’s good for the markets to determine the rate,” he said.
The source added that large clinics were likely to keep costs within the scope of the Madhana program, in order to maintain their clientele.